There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the likabilty of characters in the publishing world, especially female characters. Sometimes I think it’s the greatest taboo to be unlikable (although promoting yourself seems to be right up there, too).
I have been turning this over idly because one of my all-time favorite television characters is back in a second series of The Bridge (Bron/Broen), Saga Norén, played by Sofia Helin.
The Swedish/Danish production makes much of the location of the Øresund Bridge that runs between Malmö and Copenhagan. The Swedes are stereotyped as uptight killjoys in Denmark, while Danes are often seen as decadent hedonists. While the Danish cop, Martin, tries to be a nice guy and get along with everyone while they deal with a bizarre murder in the first series (and an outbreak of plague in the second). Saga, however, is nigh on Asperger-ish (the show never ‘diagnoses’ her, though her co-workers giggle when Martin arrives wondering how he will deal with her ‘special’ personality) and finds most of the delicate dance of ‘getting along with people’ either a waste of time or simply incomprehensible.
It’s great that she has the confidence to walk into a bar and ask a man to have sex. He tries the usual ploy of asking her if he can buy her a drink when she tells him this, and he’s nonplussed and then suspicious. After the vigorous sex, she falls right to sleep and later he awakes to find her reviewing case photos including a cut in half torso. He leaves in a hurry.
Saga is very smart and knows that she is not like other people. In the midst of a real tangle of a case, she’s motivated by Martin’s example to attempt to actually try out more ‘normal’ pursuits. Part of the fun is the two of them always being at odds, but there’s so much refreshing about a woman who feels no need to please other people. It’s fun when she bluntly asks Martin, “How’s your scrotum?” after he’s injured, but it’s also kind of delicious that she seldom has any self-doubt whatsoever.
She may not be likable, but Saga is certainly fascinating and I’m so glad there’s a second series of The Bridge. I have had a few characters that I think might be considered something less than “likable” even among my romance titles, like Shai in the first Man City novella. She doesn’t exactly cheat on her boyfriend but she’s not willing to settle for just him alone. She wants more more more. Does that make her unlikable?
Do heroines need to be likable? Do you feel the pressure to be likable?